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What Living with Depression and Anxiety Is Like (Throw Some OCD Symptoms in There Too)

By Mikhaila

I was put on antidepressants at a young age. Severe depression runs in my family and thankfully my dad had realized what it was and saw it early in me. (It is controllable by diet but there seems to be a genetic component as well).

I can barely control it with diet. Messing up is so easy and if I wasn’t as stubborn as I am, I wouldn’t be able to handle all the home cooking and research. Thankfully, I am able to control it and stay off of medication.

As most of you know, I also have a number of other serious problems that are also controllable. Arthritis, and more recently skin issues, as well as a plethora of other lesser but very annoying symptoms.

I’ll describe what my depression is like, and if you have similar symptoms and are unmedicated, speaking to a doctor about antidepressants is worth it. Dad has had very similar symptoms, so has my husband. This doesn’t seem particularly uncommon. My teenage years were really rough but they would have been unbearable without medication. This diet is a much better option, but it’s hard and antidepressants helped me so much before I could manage the diet. For people who are worried about them, you can always stop. But at least they might offer some relief. I could feel them work in less than 2 days. (They tell you a month but I felt it right away. I was on a high dose though.) 5-HTP was also very useful to me.

Fear: Do you ever get that feeling someone’s following you at night? It’s dark, and even if you listen to music you can’t shake that feeling. Maybe it’s a mugger, maybe it’s a rapist? Maybe this street just feels like a dangerous street. When someone taps you on the shoulder do you jump? Or scream? Are you always so ready for an attack that anything mildly surprising makes you start?

That’s one part of it. It’s like my body was stuck in fight or flight mode. Permanently. Those little hairs on the back of your neck? Mine were always raised.

Has your breathing ever gotten shallow from fear? Or from adrenaline getting you ready for whatever is putting this fear into you?

There were times when I was so afraid at the park walking my dog that I ran home. Trying to run away from whatever was giving me that fear. And that was on antidepressants. They helped me, but they never got rid of the depression.

Anger: Do you have road rage? Do bad things seem to happen to you? Have you ever gotten really mad at someone for talking in the library? How about confronted someone in a bar for being annoying? When people walk slowly in front of you how angry does it make you? Because if “irate” is the answer. That’s not good. Some people are only mildly irritated.

I was at a cottage with my family when I was 22. I had already started taking Adderall for fatigue. This was my day off Adderall so my appetite had returned and I hadn’t realized food was an issue yet… So my breakfast was baguette with brie. I was starving. Partly from the Adderall use, but mostly because of what I was eating. My brother took one of my pieces of bread and I grabbed it back and said, “Seriously. Make your own. I am seriously hungry and that is not a good idea.” We hadn’t seen each other in about half a year and he ignored me and popped it in his mouth. I saw red, I could feel my pupils restrict and I took a swipe at him and he ended up bleeding. He went outside to calm down so he didn’t end up retaliating. I calmed down after I ate. I made my brother bleed because he took one of my baguette slices. That’s not a good reason.

The kind of anger where your whole body heats up and you stop thinking and just do. You get a rush almost. Your walls go up, you can feel your heart beating faster, maybe your hands shake. And you’re a fighting machine.

Brain fog: do you have a hard time having a conversation in your head? Do you have trouble remembering the right word? Do you feel like you’re walking through a molasses or fog? Does it feel like a nap would clear your thoughts? Do you ever not think about anything at all?

When I’m like this I watch tv. I find that the brain fog occurs when I’m in a really bad episode. Being angry is at least more active than not being able to think, or move. I’ll have a bad food reaction and I just write the days with brain fog off. Antidepressants helped me with the brain fog a bit too.

Lack of positive emotion: does all music bother you? This is a serious sign. I love music. I listen to it all the time, but when I have a bad reaction it just bugs me. It just sounds like noise.

Crying: do you cry easily? Do sad Facebook videos set you off? Do you cry for no obvious reason sometimes? Does crying seem to offer a bit of release? Have a cry and feel better? It does for me when I’m depressed. And for dad.

Fatigue: is it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Is it hard if not impossible to get going? Do you crash in the afternoon? Do you think your job is so exhausting that you need a nap after work? Does a sandwich pick you up?

Fatigue was so bad for me that I felt like I couldn’t move. I fell asleep in class and in exams. On the desk, since grade 10. I would almost fall asleep driving if it was a drive that was longer than about 10 minutes. This level of fatigue isn’t normal. And sleeping your life away isn’t a good option. You shouldn’t need a nap. Even if your job is difficult. Dad works 10 hour days now and he didn’t use to nap. He does more than he used to and he sleeps far less than he did before the diet. I was sleeping approximately 16 hours a day. What a waste of life.

Anxiety: I’ve never had only depression or only anxiety. They didn’t separate for me. When I’m in an anxiety-provoking situation I’ll think of the worst case scenario and then decide what I’ll do if that occurs. That alleviates it a bit. You know what people who don’t have anxiety do? They assume the original situation will work out!

Have you ever woken up and felt completely overwhelmed? Have you tried to reason with yourself? “I don’t have too much to do today, there’s no reason for this.” Or maybe you can think of reasons. How about your job? Your relationship? Anxiety takes the biggest toll on me around people I love. Although so does the anger/irritation part of depression. “Maybe this isn’t the relationship for me, maybe there’s someone better, maybe I’m unhappy because of the relationship.” It’s never gotten better without said relationship. Maybe an unlikely situation feels like it’s going to happen. Maybe you feel the need to prepare for anything bad that could happen. Is that just being well prepared? Probably not. Thinking “what if?” all the time isn’t good.
Anxiety is exhausting. The overwhelmed feeling no matter what is usually only alleviated with alcohol. And boy does alcohol help. This is also not a good solution.

Mania/hypomania: do you ever feel on top of the world? This is a much more pleasant feeling but it’s not good either. A flood of words, terrible ideas that seem like good ideas? Can you not stop talking sometimes? Can’t stop laughing? Feel like the world isn’t quite real?

Pain: do you have lower back pain? I had severe lower back pain. It felt like it needed a good stretch. Bending forward and grabbing my knees and stretching felt good, then felt much much worse. I’m not sure why but back pain is very common with depression.

OCD symptoms: before bed when I was a kid I’d reorganize my books. I read a lot to escape and I had a lot of books. I’d reorganize them from A-Z by authors last name. Then I’d think “I don’t know all these authors by heart” and I’d reorganize them by the first name. Then genre. Then I’d have to decide which genre should go where. Alphabetically? It was exhausting but it made me feel better. Antidepressants squashed those tendencies pretty quickly. Although one stuck around. I’d have to catch 3 drips of water dripping from the shower head into my mouth and then get out before the 4th dropped. I don’t know why. Also, not normal.

Other: I also got nerve pain. In my forearms, I’d have random spots that felt like someone was pushing their thumb into my arm and suddenly it’d be gone. Restless legs, weight gain, skin problems, etc. This was all food too. I also always had a pit in my stomach. Pressing just under my ribs in the middle made me feel like crying.

My depression is the worst in the morning. By nighttime sometimes it’s okay enough that I don’t want to sleep because mornings are such hell.

Again, this was all diet. Some sort of inflammation maybe. Maybe a microbiome problem, maybe candida, maybe d-lactate, definitely from a build-up of IgG antibodies. It was hell. And I didn’t realize what kind of hell it was until it lifted from diet. The first time it came back I was terrified. But it left again when the reaction ended. Every. Single. Time it comes back, I’m terrified. I cry. Every single time. I spend the first week wondering if this diet thing is a sham and I’ll be stuck in that hell forever. But then like clockwork, it lifts. And it’s always caused by what I eat.

If any of this sounds like something you’re experiencing, it’s NOT what life is supposed to be like. Some people wake up happy and go to sleep happy. Some people smile for no reason. (Seriously, I’ve met some, they exist). Go to your doctor and ask about antidepressants and describe some symptoms. You only live once, and being depressed/anxious is hell. There are things you can do and you could feel better within a month.

The only thing I’ve experienced that’s as awful as being depressed is being in pain.

Tl;dr: Have you seen Stranger Things? Mental illness is like being stuck in the Upside Down. Devoid of positive emotion, filled with anger, looking back on the past and remembering the bad times. See a doctor, (and change your diet). Here’s something I wrote in 2014 before the diet that describes it pretty succinctly.

UPDATE: 2023 – turns out this wasn’t just diet, it was also environment – living in a house with any exposure to mold (previous water damage) was also giving me these symptoms.

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  1. I’ve found that a keto or near keto diet of veggies, meat, eggs, and some fruit and some cultures dairy is vastly superior to anything else for mood.

    For arthritis though, I do add supplements. That seems to help.

  2. Mik, you and your dad are changing my world. I have been on antidepressants most of my adult life (I’m 53) but in the past year or so I’ve developed arthritis. My fingers are getting deformed. It snowed today and suddenly I can barely walk. Weather changes are terrible. I gave up smoking, I went to alcohol rehab, I know I have to try the diet. But food! It’s hard enough to eat well at all — so much greater a challenge to restrict the choices so severely. I indentify with you and your dad so much and so far Dr. P has helped me get through hard times dealing with my twin sister, who is bi-polar (although she insists she is a clairvoyant empath who has locutions and brain pops.) And then, about 9 months after I discovered Dr. P, my own 22 year-old son who was starting his teaching career had a psychotic episode and ended up in an institution for about 4 months. I used up all my personal and vacation time going to see him. He was moved to western Wisconsin, which was a 3-hour drive one-way. I went every weekend, thankful to have Dr. P’s podcasts to listen to during the long drives. He is out now, but having dealt all my life with my sister’s cruelty toward me in both her manic and depressive states, then watching my son break with reality… Bloody hell. Bloody, Hell. Since I’m being so random… I started college in 1982 with a psych major. I quickly switched to English/writing and French because the psych majors and professors were all fruitcakes. 🙂 Plus, my writing professor praised my papers in front of the whole class quite often. Anyway, I’ve been lucky and blessed in the workplace by learning graphic design software and website skills, which plays nice with creative and technical writing. Sorry I’m blathering, but I find few people who can describe so well some of the more nefarious symptoms I’ve experienced. God bless you, especially now in your marriage and with the baby. Tell the good doctor that, while I grew up with 7 brothers, and raised 2 sons and 2 step-sons, now I have 3 granddaughters, and another on the way. I’ve got him beat there! 😉 I just found your blog today, and am going to delve in and try to apply my own stubbornness to it. I hope for some relief. Thanks for listening and for sharing your painful struggle. I sincerely love the Peterson family!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! If doing a full elimination diet seems too difficult, eliminate gluten and dairy for a month and see how you feel. It helped me so much I wish everyone would try it out, even just for a month.

  3. I would like you to know that reading this post pushed me into writing a letter to our local adult psychiatric reception.

    Ever since I stopped smoking I’ve been able to slowly understand and identify similar symptoms I’ve had since I was at least 16 years old.

    not smoking = less brain fog = everything slowly makes more sense.

    Just wanted to say thank you.

  4. It’s funny you mentioned the Upside down, Season 2 of Stranger Things just came out and [spoiler alert] the monster in that boy’s body reminded me of the candida, you’ll know why when you watch it haha.

    Also, so funny you mentioned lower back pain. I used to get this horrible cramps as a teenager and that was the peak of my depression too.

    Did you react to tomatoes? Also, how do you know if carbonated water isn’t bad? It made me feel weird, maybe becuz of the electrolytes in it (I buy smart water).

    1. I make my own carbonated water with a soda stream, it definitely doesn’t bother me! I haven’t tried tomatoes yet, I’ll definitely make a post for that one.

  5. Hey Mikhaila,

    I’m a big fan of your father’s videos, and came across your blog. It’s interesting listening to a lot of your symptoms (depression, anxiety, upset stomach) and how you think it may be related to SIBO. My symptoms almost align with yours (perhaps not as severely) and I’ve started taking a supplement that may help you too : Betaine HCL with Pepsin.

    Betaine HCl with Pepsin increases your stomach acid so you can properly absorb all nutrients and minerals. Low stomach acid is pretty common in people with SIBO, or so I’ve heard. I’m not a doctor, but I started taking these supplements and have seen some pretty big improvements. I’m gaining weight and have more energy. Maybe give it a shot if you’re still suspecting SIBO?

    Best wishes

    1. I actually tried that. Dad suffered from GERD which can sometimes be helped with Betaine HCl (making your stomach more acidic instead of how it’s usually treated). If you take it and you end up feeling a mild burn, it’s unnecessary. If you don’t feel a burn then you might have low stomach acid (which like you said, stops your body from breaking down food and therefore absorbing nutrients). I felt a burn pretty quickly, even with the smaller dose. But it’s definitely a good idea for people to try out just in case that’s their problem!

  6. I’m glad you found the diet. I know it really helped me over the ten years I’ve been on the diet. Sometimes I don’t really appreciate just how much the diet has helped me. A few weeks ago, I did your Dad’s new Big Five Test. I got 34% Neuroticism (12% Withdrawal and 63% Volatility). Actually, I was shocked I got such a low mark! I’m sure I’m two standard deviations less neurotic than I was as a teenager. I truly believe the diet has totally changed the way I think and behave. Keep with the diet. It will help. Some things do take time to resolve.

    I do have a suggest for an non-drug, experiment for people with mild depression and anxiety. In the past, my husband has taken SSRIs. He found that a large dose (one tablespoon) of fermented cod liver oil could improve his mood in about four hours. I don’t know if it will work for others but my husband doesn’t need medication anymore to control his mood issues. I don’t think this home remedy would work for major depressive issues.

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